Portrait. At just 21, Lucas from the North defied the Himalayas

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At only 21 years old, Lucas Van Den Hende, originally from Wambrechies (North), challenged the Himalayan mountains. ©Lucas Van Den Hende

He had dreamed of it since he was 10 years old. On March 29, Lucas Van Den Hende, 21 ansflew alone to the Nepalto conquer l’Himalaya. Employed as a bodybuilding leader at Domyos in Marcq-en-Barœul, it is a risky bet that the sportsman – although prepared – has started. He tells his climbing in extreme conditions.

Leaving maybe saying goodbye

“Leaving, maybe saying goodbye”: on March 29, Lucas made the bet to leave alone for Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, to conquer the roof of the world. An adventure, he knew, that could have cost him his life. As soon as he arrives, the sportsman is immersed in the heart of a culture he does not know, and only has two days to acclimatize because soon he will be sinking into these mountains that are hosted by the Himalayas.

“I almost gave up before I even left,” he says. The sanitary conditions of the country, the jet lag and the stress provoked in him a cocktail powerful enough to weaken him before the start of his ascent. But it was without counting on the precious help of Dhurba, a guide who became a friend, who by the force of songs and mantras knew how to re-motivate Lucas.

Extreme conditions

It is at Ramecchap airport, “the most dangerous in the world”, that the Northerner begins his journey, not without fearing for his life. “There was tape on the wings, some passengers were praying for their lives,” he recalls, laughing. Once he landed in Lukla, Lucas put on his 15-kilo bag and put on some warm clothes: “it’s a first big shock. We go from 25 to -10 degrees “. At this time, the Northerner is at 2800 meters above sea level, the objective being to reach the summit, at 6119 meters above sea level.

There followed 15 interminable days of walking, with 1000 vertical meters underfoot. “Fortunately Dhurba was there. He sang, he danced, he shouted, without him my adventure would have been different” he confesses. And it was only after 4900 meters that the two friends let go, Dhurba’s training as a guide not allowing him to accompany Lucas to the summit.

If the good humor of his guide allowed him to stay on course, altitude sickness quickly made itself felt. Veil in front of the eyes, headaches, exhaustion: the sportsman was prepared for these symptoms caused by the lack of oxygen, but not for the frustration of having to slow down to preserve himself.

« Om mani padme um »

During his ascent in the middle of the Himalayas, danger was never far from Lucas: “we know that if something happens from the peak of Lobuche, the helicopters won’t come looking for us. So we repeated the mantra Om mani padme umwhich brings good luck.

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The first risk during climbs like this is altitude sickness, which in some cases can cause death: “on the road, I happened to come across messages in French, left in tribute to a mountaineer died on the way”.

A chilling reality that Lucas rubbed shoulders with unwittingly as he climbed the side of a cliff at night. His sherpa (a man trained in extreme conditions and who played the role of guide to the summit) never being far away, Lucas was able to cross the wall of this cliff, not without a thought for this man, lying alone in the snow under his feet: “he seemed in great danger, I said to myself that at any moment it could be me. It allowed me to keep humility and to understand that I was not invincible. »

Five breaths, one step

And then there’s that last night spent at high camp, the one that cries out that the summit isn’t far, but there’s still a long way to go. The departure for this last stage was scheduled for midnight: “we climbed with a headlamp, recalls Lucas. It was long, because five breaths were only worth one step,” he continues.

A first omen of victory presents itself to him around 5 am: “I saw this super comforting sunrise behind Everest, the most beautiful spectacle of my life” he describes, still moved.

“The most dangerous and difficult day of my life” he wrote to his father once at the top. ©Lucas Van Denhende

Then, at 7:32 a.m. on April 11, Lucas reached the peak that had fascinated him since he first saw it in a video game when he was just 10 years old. However, at 6119 meters above sea level, the triumph is short-lived since the lack of oxygen is such that it is necessary to quickly turn back. There follows an interminable descent, coupled with the exhaustion of body and mind.

It was to his dad that Lucas chose to announce his victory first.  He agreed to share this message with us.
It was to his dad that Lucas chose to announce his victory first. He agreed to share this message with us. ©Screenshot / Lucas Van Den Hende

A destabilizing return to France

“I admit that my return to France was quite destabilizing, says Lucas. I was happy to find my loved ones, but I felt guilty for having abandoned all those who helped me and who remained there without the comfort that I was going to find again. » An extreme and difficult ascent, which the Northerner does not regret having achieved: « it was really incredible » he testifies with this smile which has never left him.

However, Lucas’ thirst for discovery has not been fully satisfied: here he is already thinking about his next challenge. “Why not Manaslu within 3 years! »

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2023-06-02 17:56:31
Portrait. At just 21, Lucas from the North defied the Himalayas

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